NEW ELECTIONS FOR SIX SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS PROVINCE SEATS IN PNG PARLIAMENT

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 2, 2002 – Post-Courier)---Fresh elections will be held in Southern Highlands Province as soon practicable, election boss Reuben Kaiulo announced yesterday.

Mr. Kaiulo said new nominations would be called when the timetable for the new Southern Highlands election was worked out and money was found.

"No fresh elections can be held without guaranteed protection for election workers and the general public. Police, candidates, their supporters and community leaders must guarantee that the fresh elections will be held — without lawlessness, trouble, threats gun-fighting and killings — for voters to freely elect their choice of leaders," Mr. Kaiulo stressed.

In a three-page statement, Mr. Kaiulo said only six of the nine electorates in Southern Highlands would have fresh elections because the other three — Mendi, Ialibu-Pangia and Nipa-Kutubu — had been declared.

He also announced the declarations of the six seats in Enga Province.

Mr. Kaiulo said writs for the declared seats were returned to Governor General Sir Silas Atopare at 4 pm yesterday.

"Fresh National Parliament elections are to be held for six Southern Highlands electorates as soon as it is possible," he said.

"Dates for the new Southern Highlands elections will be set when money is given for the work to be done — and election security is guaranteed by police, election candidates, their supporters and community leaders."

Mr. Kaiulo declared the winners of the three Southern Highlands seats as Michael Nali (Mendi), Peter O’Neill (Ialibu-Pangia) and Robert Kapaol (Nipa-Kutubu).

The six declared Enga MPs include People’s Democratic Movement recruit Peter Ipatas (Enga Provincial), another PDM member and son of a founding father of PNG, the late Sir Tei Abal, Sam Abal (Wabag), National Alliance’s Don Polye Pulli (Kandep), PNG Country Party’s Dixon Maki (Kompiam-Ambum), People’s Labour Party’s Yangakun Miki Kaeok (Wapenamanda) and Independent Yarka Kappa (Lagaip-Porgera).

Mr. Kaiulo said he and his lawyers were satisfied that the counts for the declared Southern Highlands and Enga elections were lawful.

He said he had advised the Governor General that elections had failed in the six electorates of Southern Highlands, including the Southern Highlands Provincial seat, Koroba-Lake Kopiago, Tari-Pori, Kagua-Erave, Komo-Magarima and Imbonggu.

Mr. Kaiulo said he had decided to declare the six elections in Southern Highlands a failure because of reports from his returning officers and investigations by his lawyers confirming independently voting had not taken place in many parts of the electorates after ballot boxes and ballot papers had been hijacked.

He said reports also showed thousands of ballot papers were damaged or destroyed and widespread intimidation of voters through violence and threats which stopped registered voters from voting freely.

He said Electoral Commission officials were stopped from organizing orderly voting — or transporting election materials to polling and counting places — and most ballot papers had not been returned for counting, thus denying proper counting.

The commission also noted many ballot boxes had had questionable votes because of interference.

Mr. Kaiulo said he could not decide on the fate of the elections in the two provinces until yesterday because he did not have all the information he needed to make a decision as required by law.

"Details of problems in the elections had to be checked out independently, free of election politics," he said, adding he could not simply rely on news reports and claims by candidates and their supporters to make a decision.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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